by Franz Kelsch
This year’s stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California included a 103-mile route from Modesto to San Jose, with no less than five King of the Mountains climbs, including the ascent of Mt. Hamilton (HR-above categorization at 4360 feet) and the category 1 Sierra Road. This was the first time the tour went up Mt. Hamilton.
I decided that instead of watching the tour on Sierra road, as I had done on the last two years, I would go up Mt. Hamilton, a hill I have climbed many times from both sides. Before leaving home I made a quick check of the Lick Observatory weather gages on the internet to find a current temperature of 30 degree. I shoved some more clothes in my backpack on top of my digital SLR camera I was going to lug up the hill. I originally planned to start riding at 9 am, with the Nightriders, up Quimby. Only Chuck showed up but he could not ride that day. So I got back in the car and headed over to join the Hills R Us ride that was going to start at 10 am, taking the longer, but easier climb, up Mt. Hamilton road.
It had also been raining all night and the roads were wet. It was therefore no surprise that only two of us showed up for that ride up Mt. Hamilton. We left at 10 am and soon we were making the 20 mile climb to the summit. We kept he pace brisk because we were not sure if they were going to close the road. As I passed by Quimby road, an officer told me that they would stop us at Kincaid. I thought about turning around and biking over to Sierra, but decided to drive on. Around noon I made it to the summit where I was stopped by a sheriff who said we could not go further.
Several cyclists were waiting around to see what would happen when we noticed the sheriff was gone and people were biking through, so we jumped on our bikes and headed toward the back side. I descended about a quarter of a mile and laid my bike on the side of the road on the hill side, along with another 15 bikes that were already there.
It was not long before the sheriff came along and told us that all those bikes had to be moved and we had go down further if we wanted to watch. I headed down the backside for about a mile to find a spot to take some photos. It was a hair pin turn, so I figured that the riders would need to slow down a bit while I snapped the pictures.
It was maybe another hour before the riders arrived. There was a lead pack of around 15 riders.
The lead rider was Ruberia with the Astana team.
Also in the group is David Miliar with Slipstream (fourth in the white jersey) and Levi Leipheimer with Astana a bit further back.
Several smaller groups or individual riders then followed.
The climb had clearly done damage to the field. The peleton finally arrived.
The peleton was followed by more individual riders and small groups.
Maybe a total of 15 minutes was all that was needed from the lead rider to the last rider. I jumped on my bike and started to head back up to the summit. It was a fast descent back to the valley floor and I could feel the temperature increase by the minute. By the time I reached the bottom I was way over dressed. Too bad I missed seeing the riders on Sierra Road but I was very glad I made it up Mt. Hamilton.